The New York Knicks may expect to be a middle-class team with a record 500, but fourth-year winger RJ Barrett appears to have much higher ambitions for the club.
In a one-on-one interview with acclaimed sportscaster Ahmad Rashad on November 22 on the team’s YouTube channel, when asked what the “next step” in his career was, the 22-year-old noted that while he’s all-star and All-NBA nods are certainly on his mind, he’s finally shifted focus from individual goals to team goals.
“Team-wise, we need to get back to the playoffs and get on a run,” Barrett told Rashad. “My sophomore year, we got a taste of the playoffs and … now it’s all you think about. That’s all you think about. You’re trying everything to get back there and it’s one of the most fun basketball games I’ve ever played in my life.”
The Knicks managed to weather a seven-year playoff drought during the 2020-21 season, during which they surprised the crowds with 41 wins and finished the year fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Since then, New York has posted an overall record of 46-54, missing both the postseason and the play-in tournament during their much-anticipated 2021-22 follow-up season.
Barrett, like the vast majority of Knicks fans, is hoping to end his current playoff-less streak soon.
Rashad would follow up on his “next step” question by asking the Knicks wing how he would describe himself. In response, Barrett responded with just two words: “a dog.”
“RJ Barrett is a dog,” he said. “He’s competitive and he’ll go out on the pitch and give you what he’s got every night. I won’t be the fanciest guy… but I will be productive, I will be there for my teammates. You will see me there every night. Through pain, through everything I’m on the court.
After signing a lucrative four-year, $120 million contract extension this past offseason, RJ Barrett finds he has a pretty impressive, if somewhat inconsistent, season stats of 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per competition.
In a recent meeting with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney, an anonymous Eastern Conference coach stressed that the New York Knicks should urgently consider moving into the 2022-23 season, Jericho Sims, the big man sophomore, to give more playing time in the regular rotation.
“I really like Jericho Sims, a lot of coaches like it, a lot of teams like it,” the coach told Deveney. “He makes mistakes on both ends but that can be fixed with experience. He’s a crazy athlete who’s banging off the charts with the way he can move and jump for his size. Very springy. They knew he was a project and he might not be ready yet, but every time he plays he gets a little better.”
Despite struggling overall to find a consistent role in head coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, the 24-year-old has seen a drastic increase in playing time this season due to the team’s injury woes upfront, even earning two nominations in the starting XI 13 games played.
Ever since typical starter Mitchell Robinson fell to the ground with a sprained right knee on Nov. 5, the Knicks Big has been a regular in Thibodeau’s rotation, again boasting solid per-game averages of 5.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 Blocks to a whopping 74.3% shots from the ground in 18.3 minutes during that span.